Women urged to know cervical cancer symptoms and get tested

Women are being urged to check that they know the symptoms for cervical cancer and have had their regular screening test.

Health chiefs at Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System (ICS) want women and people with a cervix to be aware of the dangers and to know how to access help if it is needed.

Last month the national charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust raised concerns over NHS England data which showed that around 70 per cent of eligible people in England were tested in 2020-21, and coverage had dropped by two per cent compared to 2019-20. The screening programme was temporarily suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Shropshire, 76 per cent of those eligible were screened – down from 78 per cent the year before. In Telford and Wrekin, 72 per cent of those eligible were screened – down from 74 per cent the previous year.

Julie Davies, director for cancer services at Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group, part of the ICS, said: “Cervical screening isn’t always easy, and with the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic it can be even harder, which means you might be tempted to put it off. Please get a test if it’s time for you to get one – cervical screening can help stop cervical cancer before it starts so it’s an incredibly important test.

“Cervical screening isn't a test for cancer; it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

“Most of these changes won't lead to cervical cancer but in some cases the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can't become cancerous, so it’s vitally important that women are screened regularly.

“You can also protect yourself by being aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer and if you spot any concerning signs, please do not delay – contact your GP immediately.”

Symptoms of cervical cancer can include vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, including after the menopause, after sex, or between regular periods, changes to vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort during sex and unexplained pain in your lower back or between your hip bones (pelvis).

Around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK and the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, known as a smear test, was set up to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition. Since the programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about seven per cent each year.

It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.

Smoking, having a weakened immune system, taking the oral contraceptive pill and being the child of a mother who took the medicine diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy between 1938 and 1971 can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.

All women who are registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening every three years between the ages of 25-49 and every five years between the ages of 50-64. Women over 65 are only invited if they haven’t been screened since the age of 50 or if they have recently had an abnormal test.

Schoolchildren are also offered the HPV vaccine to protect them against the human papillomavirus, which can cause cancers including cervical cancer.

Full details of the NHS cervical screening programme can be found on the NHS Choices website at nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/

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